I’ve reaching the point in my career where the risks I take (for myself and for my clients) are bigger. Which means that the potential outcomes either payoff or tank in pendulum swings that are larger than I’ve experienced up to this point. Said another way: the highs are higher, and the lows fucking blow.
It’s still a bit jarring to navigate. I find myself having major performance swings. I’ll experience the high of a straight-up murdered presentation that was well-delivered and on-point, with the client simply showering me and my team with compliments. But sometimes in the same week, I’ll hear from another client that the deliverable wasn’t good enough and I need to go back to the drawing board. Ouch.
At times, I feel unstoppable, like Bekah M. getting a rose even after she divulged to Arie that she’s a mere 22 years of age. At other times – on occasion, in the very next hour – I feel like the biggest fucking failure. It can take its toll on the psyche when I’m trying to manage to this perception that I consistently hit on all cylinders and have it all together.
Over the years, I’ve become a fairly resilient professional. But every so often, I find myself second-guessing everything: my approach, my strategic prowess, my leadership ability, my rapport with the client. I can overanalyze to the point of it being (temporarily) crippling to producing at a bomb-ass level.
The worst part about this mindset is that it makes me feel incredibly alone. Do men feel this way? Do other women or am I an insecure asshat? Surely, I am just an emo, OCD, people-pleasing control freak who needs to get the hell over myself, stop being a needy-ass toddler, and not take things to heart.
Why do I have all the feels about my work?!
I am a person who generally hates feeling things, so this purgatory-like emotional state about my work is a total worlds-colliding situation.
But here’s the thing: to not take things personally is incredibly difficult when you are so invested in and committed to the success of the work. And I’m beginning to confront the traditional assumption that you shouldn’t take shit personally. If you are cold and impersonal about the work, that means you don’t believe in it. To have a stake in what you produce demonstrates your interest, your acumen, and your conviction. So fuck it: go ahead and get after those feels.
That said, there is a balance that must be struck. You can’t go too far down the rabbit hole that you lose the ability to objectively assess and plan for how to move forward. Self-awareness is key to mastering this.
When something goes awry, I give myself permission to have a pity party of sorts. Here’s my “recipe” for dealing:
- I try to embrace the disappointment / frustration / stabby feelings and let them percolate for a bit. There’s this sort of mindset that, if you feel something toward work or show any signs of humanity or sadness, you are weak. To confront yet another traditional – and terribly antiquated – assumption, this is just bullshit. It takes immense strength to be vulnerable and let yourself (and others) know what you think and feel in an uncensored way.
- Then I take a walk and force myself to think about and focus on anything but the challenge. Puppies. Queso. Crochet. Words that rhyme with “fart.” What I’m going to make for dinner. The Bachelor.
- I build myself back up. I am a motherfucking badass wizard of strategic sorcery (or something like that). So it’s time to ACT like it.
- I treat myself to a healthy-ish indulgence as a reward for acting like an adult and pushing through this without ugly crying in the restroom for an hour. A smoothie from Alchemy, a boujee-ass pamplemousse La Croix, whatever floats your boat.
- I turn on the tunes and crank. I’m a firm believer that everyone needs an “I’m about to whoop some ass” theme song. Some of my favorite movie scenes feature that requisite slow walk right before the action peaks.
I have a go-to song that I envision playing as I slow-walk into a presentation or big meeting. Specifically, around the 1:30 mark. Listening to this while I work helps me project positive vibes.
Because, I shouldn’t dare be vulnerable and talk about it. Women have it hard enough in today’s fucked-up landscape – why would I
I’m not saying we should all go around being emo about things all the time. There’s a definite time and place for experiencing and sharing frustrations. I’m not suggesting we open the flood gates, but I am purporting that it is normal to do so on occasion. It’s natural and healthy that you care about your work, and it’s to be expected when you have an emotional reaction to a less-then-stellar performance.
I have struggled with writing this post. It seems that, at my career level, there’s an expectation of the facade I should project at all times: that I have it all together, that I always know the answer, that I never worry, that I don’t fail. Some may think that I am making a mistake by sharing my thoughts on this and being vulnerable enough to discuss it openly.
Women have it hard enough in today’s social and political climate. So, 1) get off my case – I get to decide what I think and share; and no, my thoughts and feelings do not dictate the entire trajectory of my career. And, 2) I hope this creates some sense of commonality or community for any professional that may struggle with this.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a major issue relative to everything else happening in our country today. But yet another topic on which women can defy the expectation and lift each other up in open, authentic dialog.
Yay feels, or whatever.